top of page
desktop resize 11.jpg
Home: Welcome

I'm taking a brief hiatus. In the meantime, enjoy this throwback post from my old gaming blog. This one's from 2015.


Have you played Portal? It’s been out for a good, long while now, but I’ve only recently gotten around to playing myself. I’ll be honest here. The entire time I played, I asked myself over and over again, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

This game is challenging, hilarious, entertaining, and just downright fun. A friend suggested it to me time and time again, and I kept putting it off, saying it didn’t seem that interesting. Well, if you’re reading this now and haven’t yet played, do yourself a favor — Go play it! Right now!

I, for one, do not welcome our evil robot overlords.

In a previous post, I mentioned that only 15% of games have a playable female protagonist. I am betting the number of games with a female antagonist is even smaller. Well, guess what? Portal has both.

You play as Chell, a silent but extremely clever woman who awakens as part of some grand experiment run by GLaDOS, an A.I. computer system gone haywire. GLaDOS is unique as a villain. She hates Chell, but instead of the usual threats backed by fire and brimstone, she commonly uses humor and sarcasm to taunt the heroine. I literally laughed out loud at some of the quips our villain throws out in attempts to dispirit Chell. In fact, GLaDOS has been called the greatest video game villain of all time. She is extremely powerful, having been responsible for the deaths of all the other scientists in the facility before Chell awakens to find that she has to face this monster/computer with the help of only her sharp mind, some fancy boots, and a handy portal gun.

Speaking of our portal gun-toting protagonist, you rarely get to see her. Without explaining the intricacies of the physical portals you create in the game, the only way you ever really get a glimpse of your character is usually for just a few seconds when passing from room to room, and only if the portals line up just right.

This is our heroine to the left, and what actual gameplay looks like is above. As you can see, it’s lots of puzzles and portals, very little protagonist.

Of the 15% of games with a playable female lead, I bet an even smaller number has that protagonist mostly out of sight, her gender ultimately inconsequential (this is not your typical damsel in distress story!), and does not in any way, shape, or form sexualize the heroine. She is fully clothed, very intelligent, and completely independent.

Like perhaps many of you, I played a lot of Tomb Raider in the past. (Like, the way past. We’re talking the era of Playstaion 1 here.) Now there was a strong female protagonist. She ran obstacle courses for fun, explored ancient ruins, completed puzzles, and bested both wild animals and wild men with her trusty pistols (or sub machine guns, if you had the cheat codes).

Where Portal improves on the Lara Croft model is that sure, you’re kicking ass and taking names (albeit those names are more like “turret number 4” instead of the various thugs and kingpins like in the Tomb Raider world), but also, you’re not in constant fear of your giant, extremely angled uniboob popping any nearby balloons while you go about your business.

I have got to know where Lara Croft shops for bras.

What I’m getting at is that Portal’s protagonist is there to save herself from one maniacal villain (who has several bullet-and-laser-wielding robot minions at her disposal), and she’s not concerned with how hot she looks while she does it. While a lot of video game developers seem to believe that being sexy is a woman’s highest priority (they likely imagine it’s right there at the base of some special woman version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), in actuality, staying alive is usually the end game, no matter what you end up looking like when you get there. While most real-life people aren’t particularly worried about what their mascara looks like when they’re being shot at, for instance, video games would often have you believing otherwise. The creators behind Portal know this and apparently agree that it’s pretty silly. That’s why they made this game about Chell’s brains and not her breasts, her attempts at survival and not her attempts at giving teenage boys wet dreams. (Pointy, triangle boob-filled wet dreams.)

Moving on, though, aside from getting to control a mostly unseen character with command over some pretty exciting new technology, we’re fighting against some fairly dangerous tech in this game as well. Our villain, GLaDOS, is pure evil and hilarity rolled into one. You genuinely hate her while also immensely enjoy interacting with her. Also, and I think it probably goes without saying, but as mentioned before, GLaDOS is literally a computer, so there is no sexualization of our female antagonist either.

Well hold on, now. There might be someone out there who finds this sexy.

Really, though, Portal does everything right. Shoot, if we could listen to the turrets’ private conversations, I bet they’d pass the Bechdel test. (That was a joke, of course. Turrets are programmed to kill, not chat idly. What, do you live in some sort of turret-friendly wonderland?)

In this game, you are just two powerful ladies facing off against each other in a battle of wits and intelligence (peppered with some frustration and a good dash of laughter). This game will crack you up, it will make you angry, and it will make you excited for the next level. I give it an A+ and am a little disappointed that you’re still reading this article and not already playing it right now!

Just don’t forget: The cake is a lie.


Enjoyed this post? See new articles as they're released by becoming a subscriber.

7 views0 comments

I'm taking a brief hiatus. In the meantime, enjoy this throwback post from my old gaming blog. Here's one from way back in 2016 about Overwatch. This was written back when the game was in beta, and it's changed immensely since then! Enjoy this look back to its not-so-humble beginnings.

An abbreviated version of this article was posted at Visitant Lit (formerly PDXX Collective).


I fly through the air and set my sights at the group outlined in red below. If I can get into position before my rockets run out of fuel, it’s likely all the enemies under my feet will get a hard taste of artillery as I rain justice down upon them. In this match, for this moment, I am Pharah, and my ultimate ability is fully charged and ready to be unleashed. Like many players, this is easily one of my favorite moments in an Overwatch match.

In case you’re not familiar, Overwatch is a new Blizzard game coming out this spring. So far, they have a closed beta running, but the invites are few and far between. However, thanks to good fortune and a good friend, I got in, and I’m here to tell you about the things this game is doing that sets it apart from modern competitors.

And thus the Gods of Gaming did smile down upon Kelsey and did grant unto her a spot in the Overwatch closed beta, and play game upon game she did, and it was good. Amen.

So what is Overwatch? Well, to put it extremely simply, it’s a futuristic first-person shooter. Think more Halo than Call of Duty, though Halo doesn’t really come all that close either. This isn’t your average point-and-click shooting game by a long shot. The characters have all sorts of exceptional abilities, which means each game requires unique coordination between you and your team in order to use your strengths as efficiently as possible, as well as doing your best to ensure the opposing team can’t do the same.

There are objectives to complete, such as holding a point or moving a payload, and you can play in general skirmishes as well. After you’re matched with players of equal skill, you’ll see what the objective is and what map you’re on and have the opportunity to talk to your team and pick your hero. You get to see what your teammates are choosing as well, and the game has a handy feature where it notes to the side what your team is lacking. Do you need more support heroes? Do you have low team damage? Are you missing a tank? The game won’t stop you from picking whatever you want, but it will helpfully let you know when your choice isn’t the best idea.

This game is developed to be all about teamwork, and when objectives shift mid-game (perhaps from having to hold a point to defending a payload), the needs of the team may shift as well. Thankfully, you are not locked into the hero you chose in the opening sequence. After seeing how your fellow players are stacking up on the battlefield, you can assess the team’s needs and fill in any holes in defense, offense, or support as you see fit by changing your character at any time in your spawn room. In short, each match is dynamic; who you play as depends on several factors that can change at any time, and that’s what keeps the game so interesting.

I won’t mince words here: I love the gameplay. It’s high-powered and team-oriented. It’s fast-paced and constantly engaging. You can switch between a lithe, pin-pointing sniper slipping in an out of the shadows, a massive wall of a tank right on the front lines, or hang back and buff your fellow players as a formidable support hero, assuring your team is a force to be reckoned with.

There’s something that has been perhaps overshadowed by all of that engaging gameplay, however, and though it might be currently slipping under the radar, it really deserves its own moment in the spotlight as well. Overwatch requires assessment and understanding of team dynamics, it demands lightning-fast reflexes and tactical positioning at every moment, but it gives something to its players as well, and it’s something which most games have managed to fall short on time and time again: diversity.

I am a girl, and I game. I am a gamer-girl, if you will. I’ve been spending my free time with a console or PC in front of me since my brother and I took turns at Super Mario Bros on the NES (and as a symptom of youngest-child syndrome, yes, I was always forced to play Luigi). Years later, I finally got a console of my own (PS1, if you’re inquiring), and gaming has been a constant in my life ever since. I’ve played quite a few games across quite a few years, is what I’m saying, and I think there are a lot of great ones out there. Overwatch, though, stands out to me in particular because of a couple shining attributes, the first of which being that there are lots of female characters to choose from, and they’re all amazing.

Tons of games have female characters, I know, and even games with zero female leads can still be fantastic, of course, but this game’s got something special going on. Of the 21 playable characters, 8 are women. Two of the characters are robots and one is a gorilla (Ha! Fantasy games, am I right?), so if we’re looking just at the humans up for play, there are 18 total. That means of those characters, about 44% are women!

You may be aware of the statistics which state that about 48% of gamers are female. Overwatch is the first mainstream game I’ve encountered that does such a good job equally representing its playerbase in that way. Women who game as much as I do generally don’t mind playing as a man every now and then, but we’ve seen time and time again that if there are women in the virtual worlds we choose immerse ourselves in, they always tend to be the token female, the damsel in distress, or the sex object, and Blizzard isn’t completely innocent of this, but it seems the company is listening. (Not to me, of course, but hey, they must have heard somebody.)

The women of Overwatch are not simply token, there only to check a box on the inclusiveness scale. They are no more or less dependent on the team than any other characters. They do not need rescuing. While Some are sleek and seductive, others are covered in thick armor or showing off powerful muscles, but all are equally badass.

Exhibit A

Take, for instance, D.Va (top left). She is about as small and dainty as they come, physically, with a small but sharp voice, but her role in the group is that of the tank, which means she exists to take as much damage as possible, survive the toughest assaults, and protect her team. Strength comes in all shapes and sizes, after all (and the ability to operate heavy machinery doesn’t hurt).

Another powerful character, Tracer (not pictured), is easily one of the most feared assassins in the game. She zooms around, essentially healing herself while keeping her enemies guessing about her location until she can take them out with a combination of the element of surprise and deadly efficiency.

My favorite, however, is Zarya (middle). She’s a tough Russian woman with the ability to shield herself and her teammates, but she can also group enemies together for easy pickings while her particle gun charges up to face-melting levels, which makes her a foe to be reckoned with in no uncertain terms.

In short, don’t underestimate any of these Overwatch ladies!

And, not to leave them behind in all this, obviously there are male characters just as powerful and fun to play. Hanzo is one of the ones I love most. He shoots arrows with pinpoint accuracy and finesse, often killing his foes in one blow. Reihardt, on the other hand, is an unstoppable force that strikes fear into the heart of his enemies for entirely different reasons. His shield protects his teammates as they push toward the objective, but he can drop it at any time to smash his enemies with his hammer, send a shock of fire across the battlefield, or slam into his foes’ comparatively squishy bodies with his own hulking, heavily armored mass, often killing them instantly.

That being said, tough and adequately represented male characters are nothing new in the gaming world, especially in the realm of FPS-style gameplay. That’s why these badass chicks stand out to me so much more than their fearsome male counterparts.

The breakdown is something like this: One-third of the DPS and assassin/specialist characters, 40 percent of the tanks, and half of the support heroes are women. That is unlike anything I’ve seen in similar games. As a result, since Overwatch has near-equal gender representation, it’s easy to fill any role and kick some serious butt by playing a male or female character, which is all most of us interested in a more equal gender balance in games have ever asked for.

But diversity is not just about gender, of course. Another very exciting aspect of the game is the characters’ cultural diversity. I teach English to speakers of other languages for a living (What? Writing game reviews doesn’t pay my bills? I’m honestly as shocked as you are.), and I’m sensitive to the fact that American media often does not represent people like my students (and a huge percentage of the American population) equally or generally very fairly, so I’m always excited to see a mosaic of colors and cultures in media. In that way, Overwatch has done a great job painting a vibrant picture with their cast of characters.

And what a cast it is!

Represented in the game are the countries of South Korea, Japan, France, Australia, Brazil, America, China, Switzerland, Egypt, Germany, India, Sweden, and Russia, while several other characters’ home countries are not named or made immediately obvious. (You can read the characters’ engaging backstories here.)

While the diversity is lovely to see, I must admit that sometimes the associations are a bit overly stereotypical. Two examples spring to mind immediately, though they aren’t the only examples of Overwatch exploiting the overdone. Hanzo, who is from Japan, is mostly concerned with honor, for instance, and McCree, who is supposed to be from the south of the US, is very much reminiscent of every guy you’ve seen in a saloon shoot-out in an Old West flick, both of which are tropes we’ve all likely been exposed to ad nauseam at this point.

That being said, I still think there’s value in the diversity shown on screen. One thing that I particularly enjoy is that each character has an accent representative of where they’re from, and they even speak at times in their first language (but never when it would leave the player confused about what’s going on). For instance, you can make your character say hello to the team, and that means hearing greetings called out in a multitude of beautiful languages. It’s a feature that is perhaps inconsequential in the grand scheme of play but, similar to seeing a more even divide among the genders of the heroes, could mean a lot to the players controlling those characters from the other side of the screen.

All in all, I think Overwatch has done an excellent job representing its playerbase and making this game seem accessible to and welcoming to the diverse population who consider themselves gamers. If you’re a fan of first-person shooters, team strategy games, or a play style that makes you think on your feet, I highly recommend trying it out in the spring!


Enjoyed this post? See new articles as they're released by becoming a subscriber.

6 views1 comment

When I started this blog, I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do with it. I also knew I wanted to stream some alongside it. I’m not trying to make Twitch Partner or anything, though I did recently become Affiliate (humblebrag, yes), and I got there with the help of my recent weekly puzzle game streams. I’ve posted before about my first foray into the Rusty Lake franchise, but it’s been nearly two months since then, and I’ve now made my way through all of the Cube Escape series, another Rusty Lake title, and the co-op puzzle game, Tick Tock: A Tale For Two with a friend.

And throughout them all, there’s something very important that I’ve learned:

I’m bad at puzzle games.

Wait, no, not that. Well, not just that, anyway.

I did definitely learn that, though.

That being said, I don’t think it would be as fun if I didn’t struggle sometimes. No matter the game, for me, it’s never been about breezing through to the end; it’s always about the experience, the surprises, and, in the case of these puzzles and mysteries, those super satisfying “ohhhhh, now I get it” moments.

And surprisingly, these games about murdered parents and a haunted lake and confronting my corrupted soul have been a comfort to me in a way that I didn’t exactly expect. I don’t know if it’s just part of getting older and having so many IRL responsibilities, but I’ve had a hard time really getting immersed in games lately. I don’t mean that I can’t still play for hours, but story-driven games haven’t sucked me in quite the same as they used to. However, these puzzle games have managed to do it. I get into them more than I have other games lately, I think because I end up so zoned in and so focused, and, at least with the titles I’m playing right now, I really feel like I’m in the space my character is exploring, and that makes the games easy to get lost in. (And a lot of fun.)

It also helps that I can interact with (and, thank god, get help from) my chat when I stream. Even though most of the games I’ve been playing are single player, I’ve had a great time feeling like I’m working with my friends and that they’re in it with me week after week.

Whether they like it or not, haha.

These games have also helped me work my brain in new and different ways. Half the fun is in the times where I’m not even sure what direction they're trying to take me or when the mechanics of a new puzzle are throwing me for a loop. I miss things sometimes because I’ll be so focused on X that I’ll miss out on Y, and other times, I know exactly what the game makers going are for before we even get there, and I crack up because I just know something wild is going to come out of the toilet I just finally found a plunger for. (Don’t ask. Or... do?)

And, let’s be honest, when I (or, more usually correct, we) finally get to the bottom of that puzzle that had been tripping me up for what feels like forever, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I mentioned in another article how that feeling can expand beyond video games, and this is no different. While I’m overall very privileged and lucky, the lifestyle changes that come along with COVID precautions have still altered my life a lot, and I’m not saying I should replace all those missing things with video games, of course, but it’s been nice to have this constant, this ability to achieve, to conquer, and to complete while my real life is still so in flux.

See? Stability.

So what have I learned (other than I’m not super good at these games and love to play them anyway)?

I've learned to appreciate and enjoy taking my time. I've (re)learned how to dive in and allow myself to escape like I did when I was a kid. I'm constantly learning how to find new ways of thinking and to embrace (and at times rely on) teamwork and the multiple perspectives that it can bring. I'm learning to take in whole scenes, to focus on the details, to expect the unexpected, and to remember that right when I think I have it figured out, they're going to throw me for a loop, so buckle in.

I’ve learned and am still learning a ton, for sure, and I love that part of the experience, but beyond all that, the games I’ve been playing have something else to offer, and it’s just as worthwhile as all the rest: fun. Let's not forget that, as I’ve said before, that’s all games have to be to be valuable. Don't get me wrong; I believe video games are art. That they contribute immeasurably to our lives. That they can teach us, train us, and help us build aspects of ourselves as well as provide challenges and comfort and safety in ways the real world often can’t. More and more, games are finally getting recognized for the masterpieces they are. Their storytelling, musical composition, visual aspects, and voice acting are no longer passing beneath our recognition. But even if all of that work and thought and planning and creativity leads to nothing more than just a darn good time, lots of fun, and feelings of adventure, well, that’s still incredibly valuable in my book.

And now, the most exciting part of this new puzzle game adventure I’ve embarked on is that it’s far from over. There are more surprises around the corner, more puzzles to get stuck on, and undoubtedly lots more help to require. I can't wait to see what pops out at me next, what dark humor cracks me up, and what more these games have to teach me.

-- Enjoyed this post? See new articles as they're released by becoming a subscriber.

21 views0 comments
Home: Blog2


Post List